Chrissy Metz's road to success hasn't been easy. In February 2017, she opened up to Glamour about how she only had 81 cents in her bank account when she booked This Is Us, the show that catapulted her to stardom. And now she's talking about another painful chapter in her life: her teen years, when she says her stepfather routinely abused and fat-shamed her.
In an excerpt from her upcoming memoir, This Is Me—obtained by People for this week's cover story—Metz explains how her mother remarried a new man, whom she calls Trigger, when she was around 8 years old. Together, her mother and Trigger had a baby, and Metz writes that Trigger clearly favored his biological child over Metz and her siblings. Metz also writes that her mother never saw how Trigger treated her because she was always working.
“My body seemed to offend him, but he couldn’t help but stare, especially when I was eating, Metz writes. "He joked about putting a lock on the refrigerator. We had lived with a lack of food for so long that when it was there, I felt like I had to eat it before it disappeared. Food was my only happiness.”
This constant food-shaming led to Metz sneaking snacks so no one—particularly Trigger—would see. "I'd get up in the middle of the night and eat," she writes in her book. "I’d sneak food to eat in the bathroom. Cookies, chips. Things I could eat as fast as possible to avoid detection. Things that would give me the brief bliss of numbness.”
Somewhere along the way, Trigger's verbal abuse turned physical. Metz says he never "punched her face," just her body: "the thing that offended him so much."
"He shoved me, slapped me, punched my arm," she writes. "He would hit me if he thought I looked at him wrong. I remember being on the kitchen floor after he knocked me over, and I was begging to know what I did. He just shoved me hard with his foot.”
During her teenage years, the abuse even turned mental: Trigger would force Metz to weigh herself in front of him and then react to the number on the scale. It first happened when she was 14. "He’d get the scale from the bathroom and clang it hard on the kitchen floor. ‘Well, get on the damn thing!’ Trigger would yell. ‘This is what you need to know,' ” Metz writes.
“He sat in a chair next to the scale as I got on. ‘Good God almighty!’ he yelled every single time. The number then was about 140 or 130. Most of my friends weighed about ninety pounds. ‘Why are you getting fatter?’ he demanded. I look at pictures of me from that time, and I would be so fine with being that size now. But I thought I was gigantic," she writes.
Despite all this, though, Metz clung at opportunities to bond with Trigger, like when they watched Civil War documentaries together on TV. Those moments, Metz says, humanized him.
Their relationship is different today. Metz writes that Trigger is now remorseful of the way he treated her growing up and they've since made amends. "We have a relationship now,” Metz says. “I do love him and I do care about him.”
It's remarkable that the actress is able to look back on this time with such empathy and candor. "I'm a tough cookie," Metz tells People. “But it’s one of those things that attempts to break your spirit.”
Metz's memoir This Is Me comes out March 29.